Does Religion Has Its Role In Politics

Whereas rituals, customs, and traditions furnish symbolic and distinctive identity to religion, the pathways to the divinity which are paved with morals and ethics, are often debased by its despicable ceremonial rites and practices.

It is in this context that the contemporary and progressive political ideologies disdain religion. Its nature is customarily interpreted thru inherent ritualistic practices rather than its doctrines of ethics and noble thoughts. Read more in my essay (7 minutes) on this issue.

-Promod Puri

Niqab, Burqa And Myanmar Rohingya Refugees

Whereas, Rohingya Muslims refugees from Myanmar, over half a million in number, are battling terror, exhaustion, and hunger in Bangladesh, here in Canada Muslim-right women, with the support of so-called anti-racist progressive activists, and vote-hungry opportunist politicians, are battling to save their right to wear burqa and niqab as against the upcoming ban in Quebec.

Humanism demands that women combating to retain their burqas and niqabs to protect their social or religious traditions and cultural identities, should move their curtains and look at the crisis and sufferings faced by fellow Muslims who are being kicked out from their homeland by Buddhist-dominated Myanmar government as part of its ethnic cleansing drive.

Promod Puri

Brevity

Brevity in expression is an art on Twitter, politicians excel in it to create distractions.

Hinduism Thrives In Its Open Structure

By Promod Puri

Hinduism is a wide-open structure. It is an abode where believers in God, atheists, and ethicists can comfortably reside together and share their knowledge, beliefs, and experiences for the betterment of humanity and its environments.

Hinduism evolves by itself in its conflicting, contradicting, and controversial framework. In its spacious design and architecture, Hinduism is open for questioning, debate, and discussion

Hinduism has never been run by any centralized religious authority. As such it has evolved its own flexible, resilient, and even firm dynamics along with rationales, metaphysical and mystical beliefs which are not binding.

From rituals to idol worship, mantra and metaphysics, karma, and moksha, to meditation and yoga, and all its recreational aspects like music, dance, and drama, Hinduism is disciplinary as well as a comprehensive experience of spiritual development in liberal and progressive regime.

Hinduism is not merely “a way of life”, but much more than that.

(Read more about Hinduism in “Hinduism beyond rituals, customs, and traditions).

WHY IDOL WORSHIPPING IN HINDUISM

One of the most outstanding and contemplating icons of Hinduism is the worship of murtis (idols). The Divine Spirit is perceived in an image. In this perceptive role murtis are an integral part of Hindu institutions and traditions.

In its colorful and expressive craftmanship, a murti is an adorable symbol of identity in Hindu iconology. From an object of worship, a murti becomes divinity in itself. The Lord is in the idol too.

Idolatry establishes a direct one-to-one relationship between a devotee and the divinity. And in that connection, a dialogue is possible when the mind of an Upasak (devotee) is earnestly invoked in the Upasana stage (sitting near a murti) to seek Divine guidance and blessings.

A blissful bond of non-duality can be realized between an Atma (individual soul) and Paramatma (Supreme Soul).

Image formation is a very natural trait in human psychology. In our conscious state all our feelings, ideas, and impulses manifest images. The genesis of an image is a cognitive imagination influenced by perception of an object.

In the Philosophy and Significance of Idol Worship, a Divine Life Society publication, Sri Swami Sivananda says:

“Idol is a support for the neophyte. It is a prop of his spiritual childhood. A form or image is necessary for worship in the beginning. It is an external symbol of God for worship. It is a reminder of God. The material image calls up the mental idea. Steadiness of mind is obtained by image worship. To behold God everywhere and to practice the presence of God is not possible for the ordinary man. Idol worship is the easiest form of worship for the modern man.

“A symbol is absolutely indispensable for fixing the mind. The mind wants a prop to lean upon. It cannot have a conception of the Absolute in the initial stages. Without the help of some external aid, in the initial stages, the mind cannot be centralized. In the beginning, concentration or meditation is not possible without a symbol.

Pratima (idol) is a substitute or symbol. The image in a temple, though it is made of stone, wood or metal, is precious for a devotee as it bears the mark of his Lord, as it stands for something which he holds holy and eternal. A flag is only a small piece of painted cloth, but it stands for a soldier for something that he holds very dear. He is prepared to give up his life in defending his flag. Similarly, the image is very dear to a devotee. It speaks to him in its own language of devotion. Just as the flag arouses martial valor in the soldier, so also the image arouses devotion in the devotee. The Lord is superimposed on the image and the image generates divine thoughts in the worshipper”.

Besides offering a symbolic presence of divinity and its psychological proximity, murtis enrich the diversity in Hindu iconology. The liberal credentials of Hinduism are reposed in its murti representations.

Moreover, creating an ambiance of sanctity and offering a channel of devotion, murtis play a significant role in projecting Hinduism in the field of fine arts.

Shilpa Shastra, the school of art, is an academy in itself. The Hindu faith in its immensity welcomes members of the art community irrespective of their religious affiliations to pursue their talents in murti kala (art). It is the faith in spirituality which motivates an artist irrespective of religion to create and shape a sacred murti.

LORD GANESH

The secular character of Hinduism reflects in the domain of art.

In the world of both early and contemporary Indian arts, one of the most popular godhead is Lord Ganesh. He has been a favorite and popular subject taken up by artists to create their artworks. Metal, stone, drawings, ingenious material like pipal leaves and even fruits and vegetables arrangements are used to create His multi-posed images.

(Excerpts from the book: Hinduism beyond rituals, customs and traditions, Chapter 6 “Worship of Idols”).

Burqa And Women Health

Women wearing burqa from head to toe should not do so for health reasons as it deprives them absorbing vitamin D, essential for bones and general health. This essential vitamin is only available from sun rays, and in winter months that supply is limited. Burqa-ban governments should use the Noble prize winner economist 2017 advice of “nudging” when introducing such a ban which has some reasoning rather than politics. Nudging means persuasion thru education. Studies have shown nudging works better than compulsions.

Light Over Darkness

 

On October 21 in 1879 Thomas Edison brightened the world with his invention of the electric bulb. The victory of light over darkness for all practical purposes.

Cashless Society Can Be Catastrophic When Electricity, Networks, Security Fail

Excerpts from an essay in the Conversation by

Economist and Research Scientist, The Ohio State University

A cashless society that solely uses credit cards, debit cards and electronic transfers is dependent on a complex network to replace physical money. This network requires three things to work all the time.

First, there always has to be electricity to power the computers and network storage. Second, communication between all parts of the network needs to be available. Finally, the network has to be secure, so only authorized money transactions occur.

Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico in September. Many weeks later, less than 20 percent of the electricity has been restored, and no one really knows when the rest of the island will regain power. Because the electricity has been cut off to almost all cities and towns, the entire island has reverted to a economy based on cash, which is in very short supply. Credit and debit cards can’t be used because there is no way to process transactions and no power to run credit card terminals and readers.

Wildfires are currently ravaging Northern California. One of the problems caused by the fires is that the flames have destroyed numerous cell towers. When the phone network goes down, it is impossible both to reach loved ones and for credit and debit card readers to connect to the network. Without a connection, those without cash can’t buy fuel to flee, pay hotels for temporary shelter or purchase food.

Finally, we’ve recently learned how unsecure the network that processes transactions and protects our financial data has become. As most people do not possess piles of coins or bills anymore, our money consists of entries in bank and brokerage databases. If those entries change or disappear, people’s wealth vanishes, too.

A cashless society means a country’s economy is vulnerable to anything that causes a long-term disruption in power, communications or security. And those threats are rising. The number of natural disasters striking the U.S. is increasing, and wars are no longer being fought using just conventional weapons. Today the computers that control a countryare playing a much bigger role.

Cash can ensure the economy won’t collapse in an emergency, since people with cash are still able to buy and sell.

Diwali Mubarak Message To Canada’s PM

Dear Hon. Prime Minister Trudeau:

In celebration of the popular Indian festival of lights, I also wish you, Diwali Mubarak.
Your selection of Diwali Mubarak expression in your tweet is my choice as well.

I noticed that some people tweeted and objected to your use of the word ‘Mubarak’, asserting that it is not a Hindu expression, but a Muslim one as being Arabic in its origin. Please ignore these scant individuals.

Diwali is not only the festival of Hindus but Sikhs also. And ‘Mubarak’, meaning congratulations, is the most common word by the people, including Punjabis, from the northern part of India. Other expressions of Diwali greetings are in pure Hindi language, whereas Mubarak is the word of choice in Hindusthani which is the language of the common folks.

‘Mubarak’ is a secular word which fits very well with the liberal philosophies of Hinduism and Sikhism.

In that spirit of being secular and progressive, your participation in Diwali celebrations is indeed an honor for all us in the Indo-Canadian communities. You represent the true nature of Canada’s multicultural society.

By the way, Mr. Trudeau I like your ‘sherwani’ dress which you put on at the Diwali celebration event in Ottawa early this week.

 

Best wishes, and once again Diwali Mubarak.

Sincerely

Promod Puri

Vancouver, BC
(Author “Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs And Traditions”)

DIWALI MUBARAK

DMTjnFBUIAAe6eT DIWALI MUBARAK is my choice of greetings on the happy occasion of Diwali, the universal festival of lights. In the picture Canada’s  prime minister Justin Trudeau lighting the traditional Diwali lamp along with India’s High Commissioner Vikas Swarup and members of the Indo-Canadian community in Ottawa October 16, 2017.  The prime minister in his tweet greeted Canadians “Diwali Mubarak”.

“In the secular and progressive spirit of Hinduism, Diwali is the voluminous festival of celebrations. Inspired by the epic drama Ramayan, Diwali is a celebration of good over evil, and forces of light over darkness. It is a celebration of relationship, support and sacrifice of family members and friends. It is a celebration of facing obstacles with vigour and strength. It is a celebration of rule of law, peace and prosperity”. excerpt from Hinduism beyond rituals, customs and traditions

By Promod Puri

 

Networking Is Not A New Concept

Networking is not a new concept, but has been practised for hundreds of years. But historians did not recognise it. It was networking by great leaders, saints or gurus within a select group of people who otherwise were called “followers”, to spread ideas and messages.

These are excerpts from an article from my fellow blog follower “Wolfe Review“:

I listened to a talk by Niall Ferguson on Intelligence Squared about his new book. In his new book, he intends to discuss hidden, or as yet uncovered networks throughout history. There were a few rather interesting take-away points I wish to mention here.

  1. Firstly, he believes that social networks are an important way of understanding how ideas have travelled and grown through culture and history. However, these networks have never been properly covered by historians and other cultural writers. This has left speculation in the hands of conspiracy theorists and non-academics, who have taken historical facts and distorted them or misrepresented them to the point that spurious and specious conclusions have been reached.
  2. There have been two major revolutions in networking.
    1. The first is the birth of the printing press, which he places in the hands of Martin Luther. This is because of Luther’s insistence of the manufacturing of the Christian Bible into English so that all lay practitioners of Christianity can read it. The importance of this is that it was the first time an idea had been so widely spread, and spread it did. On one hand it promoted an independence of belief, but also promoted it through an objective text, so that everyone was ‘reading from the same page’. This opened the world to the possibility of spreading ideas further than ever before. Books could be manufactured on larger scale, newspapers and pamphlets could be distributed; in essence, any idea could now be objectively disseminated and used as a point of connectivity.
    2. Secondly came the revolution in computers, and with it, the birth of the internet (from the 1970s onwards). The wonderful thing about the computer revolution was how it rapidly increased the mass and pace in production of books, magazines and newspapers. As the internet followed, networking began to move to a global scale as people became connected from town to town, city to city, country to country. Communication became far more immediate, and ideas could spread as if people were in the same room.

The spirit of Jammu In Revolutionary Martyr Udham Singh

By Promod Puri

One of my Facebook friends’ last name is Jammu. It intrigues me little as that is the name of the city in the state of Jammu and Kashmir known for its beauty as well as the still unresolved “Kashmir Problem”.

My FB friend, in fact, belongs to Patiala in Punjab, and now he seems to be settled in Canada. In his introduction, he told me he had never been to Jammu, the city to which I belong. In our brief communication, he said the family name Jammu is very rare among the numerous last names in the Sikh community.

An interesting fact he disclosed me that one of Punjab’s great martyrs Sardar Udham Singh’s family name was also Jammu, but he d220px-Udhamid not carry it as part of the dictum by Guru Gobind Singh to use only Singh as last name.

My quest is how the few Sikh families acquired their last name Jammu!

Perhaps their ancestors had roots in Jammu. Or someone in the ancestral lineage was inspired by the valor of the Dogra community dominating the Jammu region, that Jammu was acquired as part of their last name to identify with the Punjabi spirit of courage to fight against slavery and injustice.

Udham Singh was among those India’s independence movement revolutionary heroes who sacrificed their lives to seek justice and freedom. He avenged the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy by assassinating Lt. governor of Punjab Michael O’Dwyer who supported the massacre in 1919 under the command of General Reginald Dyer. He shot dead O’Dwyer in 1940 in a London hall where the governor was about to address two Indian associations.

The great martyr Udham Singh was charged with “murder”, and sentenced to death. These are his final words at the trial:

“I did it because I had a grudge against him. He deserved it. He was the real culprit. He wanted to crush the spirit of my people, so I have crushed him. For full 21 years, I have been trying to wreak vengeance. I am happy that I have done the job. I am not scared of death. I am dying for my country. I have seen my people starving in India under the British rule. I have protested, against this, it was my duty. What a greater honor could be bestowed on me than death for the sake of my motherland”. Source: Wikipedia

Well, while having some nostalgic feelings about the city of my childhood, I salute the revolutionary spirit of Shaheed Udham Singh “Jammu”.

(Read Promod Puri’s articles and essays on a range of subjects in his websites: promodpuri.com and progressivehindudialogue.com

   

 

 

BJP’s Strategies In India’s Politics Of Caste

File 20171004 28664 pj9fm8
Maratha Kranti Morcha, a rallye for Marathi castes demanding respect of their rights in Mumbai last year. Mhidanesh/Wikimedia, CC BY-NC-SA

Afroz Alam, Maulana Azad National Urdu University

India is still not able to do away with its caste politics as demonstrated by recent attacks on members of lower caste in south-western state of Gujarat during a festival.

Yet Narendra Modi’s ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) is making a dramatic effort to woo such lower castes. Three of these are especially important: reviewing social justice schemes, revisiting job reservations, and the sub-categorisation of lower castes.

These measures will eventually deepen India’s caste politics and strengthen the caste system – the world’s oldest surviving social hierarchy.

In India, society is divided among higher castes, lower castes (known as Other Backward Castes or OBCs, among the socially and “educationally backward” sections of Indian society), Scheduled Castes (known as Dalits, formerly “Untouchables”), and Scheduled Tribes (known as Adivasis).

Today, the BJP is strategically working to win the heart and the vote of millions of lower castes, who make up 41% of the Indian population. However, the BJP’s outreach initiatives are not born out of a concern for social justice; they are part of an electoral agenda.

Changing the BJP’s image

The BJP’s defeat in the 2009 general election proved a turning point for its engagement with lower castes. While still playing the Hindu nationalism card with dominant upper castes, the BJP is now deploying multiple strategies to win over lower castes too.

For example, Amit Shah, now the party’s president, first highlighted Modi’s own lower-caste background in the 2014 election in Uttar Pradesh. Later on, as prime minister, Modi was projected as the champion of lower caste groups. The party’s support for a Dalit presidential candidate was internationally hyped. Similarly, a recent cabinet reshuffle brought in more lower-caste leaders to appropriate the “numerical demographic” of OBCs for political gain.

The BJP is also making lower caste-friendly gestures in assembly elections campaigns in Gujarat and Karnataka. It highlights its commitment to provide constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC), a statutory body that works for the welfare of lower castes.

Interestingly, the BJP is also pushing the idea of revisiting the existing system of reservation, which allocates 27% of governmental jobs and seats in educational institutions to lower castes. This the party proposes to do by setting up a committee to sub-categorise these groups into “backward”, “extremely backward” and “most backward” classes.

Lower caste identity through history

These are big developments. For decades, most political parties – including the Jana Sangh, which morphed into the BJP in 1980 – played their politics in the usual framework, excluding the lower-caste categories from the power structure of the state.

The notion of “affirmative action through reservation” only appeared in the mid-1970s when socialist parties led by politicians Ram Manohar Lohia and Chaudhary Charan Singh started using it to mobilise and consolidate the lower castes as a separate political identity.

The identity of lower castes only began to coalesce in 1955, when the first Backward Classes Commission under Kaka Kalelkar recommended various reservation quotas in technical, professional and government institutions.

Lower castes in India have been associated with menial work and high rates of poverty. Sharada Prasad CS/Flickr, CC BY-SA

Then in 1990, lower-caste mobilisation was galvanised when the Second Backward Classes Commission – popularly known as the Mandal Commission – recommended that 27% of positions in educational institutions and public employment be reserved for OBCs.

This was violently opposed by non-political bodies, including conservative student organisations. Many of these were close to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an ultra-nationalist ideological group that supports the BJP. In 2006, these student wings fiercely opposed the Congress-led government’s decision to implement 27% lower caste job reservations in premier higher educational institutions.

Towards a universal Hindu identity

But now, India’s right-wing organisations have made peace with lower-caste aspirations. This has proved electorally rewarding, with the BJP successfully winning a greater share of the OBC vote. A third of the OBCs shifted to the BJP in the 2014 election, and in subsequent state elections.

Strategically, the BJP has focused on dismantling the caste-based parties’ monopoly over lower-caste votes. The tactic of painting other parties as corrupt bastions of single-caste politics worked wonders, as did an effort to compress the existing 2,479 lower castes into a smaller unit of individualised caste identity to diminish their collective heft.

The BJP also supported the aspirations of lower castes’ leaders through either finance or political alliance, accommodating OBC leaders in the party or ministerial portfolios at local, state and national level.

At the same time, the party is building a network of lower castes cadres in both rural and urban areas, as well as among young people and women. To penetrate the lower castes’ social base, the BJP formed an OBC Morcha or “special wing” in July 2015.

Religious ceremonies are organised to include lower castes back into the folds of Hinduism. Asim Chaudury/Flickr, CC BY-SA

On the one hand, right-wing Hindu organisations are engaged in the radical Hinduisation of lower castes and Dalits through programmes such as “Ghar Wapsi” or “Home Coming”, rituals of conversion to Hinduism, and running religious, spiritual and service programmes in lower caste areas.

On the other hand, the BJP’s core clientele of higher castes are satisfied thanks to the works of its right-wing support organisations. They continue spreading messages they want to hear, such as tactically portraying Muslims as a common enemy.

With many of its much-acclaimed policies failing to deliver, the BJP knows it has to sustain the charisma of Narendra Modi long enough to fight the 2019 legislative elections.

Jagmeet Singh: New National Hero On Canadian Political Front

By Promod Puri     

He is dynamic. He is bold. He is the inspiration and hope.  He is a man of conviction based on his Sikh beliefs.

His appearance and dressing are guided by his self-confidence rather than from a fashion consultant, which is quite a norm for most political leaders.

He is Jagmeet Singh, the new national hero on Canadian political front.

He is challenging to both racists and the so-called progressives Leftists, as well as to the dirt-digging media.

The Canadian media and most political commentators are only narrowing him down as a political challenge to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s youthful and progressive leadership. But we need to go beyond that.

Although both are fighting against each other on political fronts, the dynamics both are creating is a landscape which syncs well with the multiracial, multicultural nature and spirit of Canada.

Together both are channeling the Canadian politics in a direction which can generate some fatal blows to the Conservatives and their Alt Right ideologies.

With the election of Jagmeet Singh as the national leader of the New Democratic Party, Canada seems to be much more progressive and politically mature than most democratic countries including the USA. promodpuri.com

Kerala Hindu Temples Recruit Non-Brahmins & Dalits As Priests

Source: Kerala Hindu Temples Recruit Non-Brahmins & Dalits As Priests

Canadians ask: “is it safe to go to USA”

By Promod Puri

Let me first position myself as if I were present at the Las Vegas country music show on the night of October 1st. Although, I am not a concert-going enthusiast, but I could join with the joyous music lovers attending the Route 91 musical festival. It was like a celebration, and when the crowd heard some “fireworks”, they thought it was part of the event. No, it was not. Perched up at the adjacent Mandalay Bay Hotel, a “lone-wolf”, Stephen Paddock, from his room window started shooting indiscriminately down the concert crowd of over 22,000 people. Within few minutes an enjoyable and peaceful music festival turned into a chaotic scene of bloody carnage. They say it was the deadliest domestic massacre in the on-going mass shooting incidents in the U.S.A. The maniac before fatally shooting himself, pumped hundreds of bullets killing at least 59 fans, and hurting over 500 of them. I am hurt too.

In visualising the pathetic scene, I am hurt with empathetic feelings along with people all over the world. The vintage position of the insane gunman from the 32nd floor of the hotel entirely covered his widespread target. The musical retreat rolled into the gunman’s trap. The concertgoers could neither run for safety nor lie down. It was a stampede with hardly any escape. Only luck could save the attendees from being either shot dead or injured.

My hurt feelings have turned into anger and puzzles. What is going on in the United States of America? That too happening more frequently. Within a span of a year or so mass killings thru random shootings happened in Charleston, San Bernardino, Orlando, and now in Las Vegas. And who knows the next gunning could be in any city across the border where hundreds of Canadians, including myself, my family, and friends, frequently do their day trips.

The question most Canadians ask: “is it safe to go to the USA”. Mass shooting can happen anytime, in any incoherent places or neighbourhoods in the country. The authorities in Washington do not issue travel advisory for their own country. The US does show its concern and safety for all the humanity from possible nuclear charge by “rogue regimes” of North Korea or Iran. But does it care about the safety and lives of its own citizens and thousands of visitors from the foray of made-in-America terrorism?

I am mad at the madness of the psychotic killers. And my madness is supplemented by the inaction of all those Congressmen and women, and rest of the US lawmakers. They are quick in sending condolence messages and offering prayers for the victims. But enact no effective laws and restrictions to tackle gun violence. The US police forces are ineffective to police their rogue citizens, while its armed forces are engaged worldwide in policing the world.

“Whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”, but not anymore.

The world saw another tragedy in the USA, this time on the Strip. It will remain top “breaking” news with extensive coverage for some time. The newscasting is laced with same old debates and arguments which are squeezed and distilled with comprehensive analyses, expertise, and data. But no action. Things cool down after a while. The issue subsides in few days or weeks.

But a bloody rampage can develop again under the shadow of “gun culture”, proudly protected by the Second Amendment. While a leading gun lobbyist advocates “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”.

God save America, and those visiting America.

Promodpuri.com